Aside from a bit of distressing personal news about a delayed project, a few things happened in recent weeks around the world that set me back on my heels. First, the disturbing news of Coptic and Muslim distress in Alexandria, then the horrific news of a young, disturbed American gunman incited by a politician to gun down Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, and taking the lives of others in the process.
Please! Stop the hate rhetoric.
I am a journalist and a writer. I live by language. And I understand that freedom of expression is a vital and inalienable right. But I must remind myself that speech is never truly free, as we have certainly seen in the recent murder of federal judge John Roll, Gabe Zimmerman, C.J. Karamargin, Christina Greene, Dorothy Murray, Dorwin Stoddard, and Phyllis Scheck. Those who incite others to commit crimes--whether through purchase of weapons or through spoken permission--are accomplices to the fact.
All of us bear a responsibility for the words we put into the minds and hearts of others. It is a sacred trust.
Obviously, those like Sarah Palin do not hold the power of language in that same regard. Palin does not understand that her vitrolic thoughts are as deadly as bullets. Had she been aware, she might have found a way to communicate a message of change that did not imply that change requires the use of guns. Sarah Palin would not have published on her Facebook page a list of Democrats whose names and office locations were targeted by her and marked by crosshairs - a symbol that clearly refers to target practice and violence. These targeted politicians received death threats. Congresswoman Giffords was one of them.
You and I, as intelligent, literate and compassionate people know that our words hold persuasion. Our speech carries effects. We do not have to uphold free speech by supporting those who offer hate speech. This has nothing to do with the first amendment right to express opinion. It has everything to do with inciting murder and mayhem. As writers, publishers, readers, and decent human beings, we must decline to support incendiary speech and the violence it begets.
I am encouraged by the solidarity now being expressed by Muslim brothers who act as human shields for Coptic worshipppers. We are one people, they have said. I think it's time for our American politicians to think and act in similar solidarity. We've something to learn from the events in Alexandria that occurred at the end of the last decade and the beginning of this one.